Books on Georgia
Update No: 289 - (27/01/05)
After a chaotic secession from the Soviet Union in 1991,
Georgia fell under the sway of Edward Shevardnadze, a former Soviet leader, in
1992. The Caucasian republic appeared set for a bright future, but Georgia's
fractious regions undermined political stability and stymied sources of revenue.
Further pressure came from Russia, which accused Georgia of sheltering Chechen
rebels and imposed a damaging visa-barrier in 2000.
Georgia's problems forced Mr Shevardnadze to resort to increasingly desperate
measures to stay in power. In 2000 he was re-elected in a rigged election and by
2002 many saw his regime as corrupt and illegitimate. A parliamentary election
marred by fraud brought opponents to the streets and Mr Shevardnadze's grudging
resignation in November 2003. In January 2004 Georgians elected Mikhail
Saakashvili, a 36-year-old American-educated lawyer, as his successor. An
opportunistic and judicious promoter of Georgia's national cause, Mr Saakashvili
has managed to reassert control over Ajara, a breakaway region. Restoring
sovereignty over South Ossetia and Abkhazia, both home to Russian-oriented
separatists, requires the patching up of relations with Moscow.
Presidential election in Abkhazia
Officials in Georgia's separatist republic of Abkhazia on 14th January
pronounced Sergei Bagapsh the winner of the repeat presidential vote of 12th
January. Final results released by the Central Election Commission show Bagapsh
won the presidential race with more than 91.5 of the vote. His only rival,
People's Party Chairman Yakub Lakoba, garnered less than 5 per cent.
Lakoba told Russia's ITAR-TASS news agency that he believes the election was not
democratic, but said he will not appeal its outcome. Outgoing President
Vladislav Ardzinba today congratulated Bagapsh on his victory.
The repeat presidential was ordered after a post-election crisis that last fall
brought Abkhazia to the brink of civil war.
Bagapsh, who had technically won the previous polls in October, this time ran on
a joint ticket with his former main rival, ex-Prime Minister Raul Khadjimba. The
disputed poll caused months of political deadlock which ended only when Russia
forced a resolution by closing the border, Abkhazia's only land route to the
outside world. Bagapsh then agreed Khadzhimba could run as his deputy.
Abkhazia won effective independence from Georgia in a 1992-93 war, but its
economy is still devastated. Once-grand buildings in the capital Sukhumi are
pitted with bullet holes and stand open to the sky. Russia props up the economy
by paying pensions, giving out passports and allowing cross-border traffic.
Georgia, home to 200,000 ethnic Georgian refugees who fled the war, has pledged
to regain control over Abkhazia, as well as over another rebel region, South
But Bagapsh said he would not compromise to improve frozen relations with
Tbilisi. "Abkhazia will hold dialogue with Georgia mediated by Russia and
the United Nations only on an equal basis," he said.
New Abkhaz president backs Moscow ties
The winner of Moscow-backed elections in the rebel Georgian region of Abkhazia
pledged close ties with Russia and refused any deal that would return
sovereignty to Tbilisi. Soon after official results of the re-run declared him
the new president, Sergei Bagapsh told a news conference: "foreign policy
will only be directed towards integration with Russia."
Russia called instead for talks between Abkhazia and Tbilisi now that the
political turmoil that followed the original disputed poll in October had ended.
"We have always emphasised that the sooner the situation was regulated, the
sooner conditions could be created for talks between Tbilisi and Sukhumi on
Georgia-Abkhazia regulation," said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
"I believe that now the issue has apparently been concluded, it will be
possible to renew such talks."
Kazakhstan officials are in talks with Azerbaijan to send crude oil through the
pipeline from Baku, Aliyev said, without being more specific. The pipeline will
ship 1 million barrels a day through Georgia, where President Mikhail
Saakashvili is trying to assert control over secessionists in South Ossetia and
''We are sure that the Georgian government will fulfil all its commitments to
security over their portion of the pipeline,'' Aliyev said. A separate pipeline
from Baku to Georgia's Supsa port on the Black Sea ''has been working for years
without any problems,'' he said.
South Ossetia and Abkhazia, each with a population of about 100,000 people,
declared independence in 1992 after the Soviet Union collapsed. Both maintain
ties to Russia. Georgian forces clashed with South Ossetian separatists in
''Georgia and Azerbaijan have similar problems, which are aggressive
separatism,'' Aliyev said. Azerbaijan since 1993 has had a dispute with
neighbouring Armenia over control of the Nagorno- Karabakh region.
Georgia in February plans to sign a military and economic treaty with Russia to
ease tensions that brought them to the brink of war this year, Saakashvili said
on Nov. 22.
Georgia can triple oil production in 2005
Georgia plans to triple oil production to 150,000-300,000 tonnes in 2005,
against 100,000 tonnes in 2004, Guram Varshalomidze, director general of the
state-run oil company, AO Gruzneft, said, Interfax News Agency reported.
The forecast is based on the readiness of foreign oil companies working in
Georgia to increase investments in exploring and producing hydrocarbons in the
country, Varshalomidze said. Canargo Energy, one of the founders of the
Georgian-British company GBOC decided to invest €57m in drilling 15 horizontal
wells at the Ninotsmind field in 2005.
According to the business plan of US oil company Frontera, it plans to invest
€37m in drilling new wells at the Taraban field in 2005. Experts predict that
new fields around Tbilisi, with reserves similar to the Samgori-Patardzeul field
are due to be opened in the next two or three years, Varshalomidze added.
"Some 2-2.5m tonnes of oil could be produced there annually over the next
several years, according to preliminary data," he said.
Varshalomidze said the big plans are connected to the work of the US company
Anadarko on Georgia's Black Sea shelf. He is convinced that commercial oil
fields will be discovered there that could produce up to 3.0-3.5m tonnes of oil
Georgia has 16 oil fields, one oil and gas field and one gas field, most of
which have already used up their resources. Combined production is 27.5m tonnes
of oil and 449.6m cubic metres of natural gas a year. Georgia's forecast
reserves are 850m tonnes of oil, of which 450m tonnes are on shore fields and
400m tonnes are off shore. Forecast reserves of gas are estimated at 400bn cubic
Georgia, Russia sign rail ferry service agreement
A rail ferry service between Russia and Georgia will open in 10 days.
Georgian Economic Development Minister, Aleksi Aleksishvili, and Russian
Transport Minister, Igor Levitin, signed an agreement to this effect recently.
The agreement provides for the development of rules for launching a ferry and
freight transportation. It also provides for the setting of temporary rules for
the ferry's operation until April.
Israeli businessmen to invest in Georgia
Director of the Eurasia Department at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
Shmuel Meirom, said Israeli businessmen are interested in investing in the
infrastructure of Georgia and in construction of roads and buildings, The
Meirom was quoted in an interview as saying that trade balance between the two
countries is restricted but the tendency is improving. Meirom also spoke of the
possibility of signing an agreement with Georgia to facilitate conditions for
businessmen of both countries. "I have already talked to some Israeli
businessmen, who are very interested in building and in buying pieces of land
here in Tbilisi. Their aim is to build some offices, buildings, roads and other
infrastructure," he stated. Meirom visited Georgia for the first time since
2001. According to him, he sees a significant improvement in the country's
infrastructure since then. "I see here first of all new buildings and new
hotels. And the roads, by the way, are better than they were before,"
stated Meirom who was in Tbilisi in connection with the arrival of new Israeli
Ambassador, Shabtai Tzur, recently. Meirom also commented on the reforms that
are underway in other post-Soviet countries. Analysing Georgia's unique role
among the post-Soviet countries, Meirom highlighted its importance as a transit
country. He thinks that the Black Sea ports and oil and gas pipelines can make
Georgia particularly attractive in this respect.
Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey sign rail construction declaration
Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey have signed a joint statement on the
construction of a Kars-Akhalkalaki-Tbilisi railway at the Georgian Ministry of
Foreign Affairs. The statement was signed by Georgian Economic Development
Minister, Aleksi Aleksishvili, Minister of Transportation of Turkey, Binali
Yildirim, and Deputy Minister of Transport of Azerbaijan, Musa Panahov, Kavkasia-Press
News Agency reported.
Aleksi Aleksishvili said at a news briefing after the signing ceremony that a
foundation had been laid for the implementation of the historic project of the
century. "We have agreed that the Kars-Akhalkalaki-Tbilisi railway project
will be implemented at an increased pace. A working group will be set up to work
on specific details of the project," he said.
Aleksishvili also said that the estimated cost of the project was US$350m, of
which US$200m will have to be spent on the construction of a railway link
between Kars [Turkey] and Akhalkalaki [Georgia] and US$150m on restoring the
Akhalkalaki-Tbilisi section. The project will be financed by all three parties.
"The Turkish side will start working on the project for the
Kars-Akhalkalaki section in 2005. Thanks to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil
pipeline, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey have acquired extensive and important
experience in the implementation of joint projects," said Aleksishvili.
Binali Yildirim said that modern roads would be built alongside the
Kars-Akhalkalaki-Tbilisi railway, providing a direct link with Europe.
Boat train service to be launched between Georgia and Turkey in 2005
A boat train service between Poti, Georgia, and Samsun, Turkey, will be launched
this year, Kavkasia-Press News Agency reported.
Georgian Economic Development Minister, Aleksi Aleksishvili, said at a news
briefing that an agreement to this effect was reached at the seventh meeting of
the joint Georgian-Turkish transport commission on 28-29 December in Tbilisi.